Can the UK meet the fifth carbon budget?

The UK’s fifth carbon budget calls for a 57% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to 1990 levels by 2028-2032. This post evaluates whether this goal is achievable and concludes that at best it will be difficult to meet. It also reviews the reasons behind the UK’s apparent success in reducing its GHG emissions (down by 36% in 2014 relative to 1990) and concludes that this reduction is largely a result of market forces and that renewable energy has played only a minor part. The post also highlights the fact that only about a quarter of UK GHG emissions come from the electricity sector, meaning that the UK’s emissions targets can be met only by making major reductions in emissions from the other energy-consuming sectors, which is a much tougher proposition.

The data used in the post are from the Committee on Climate Change’s Fifth Carbon Budget report , the Climate Change Committee’s Central Scenario data, the DECC Greenhouse Gas Emissions National Statistics or the Climate Change Committee’s Excel spreadheets unless otherwise specified.

The UK’s carbon budget is set by the Climate Change Committee (CCC), “an independent statutory body which was established under the Climate Change Act (2008) to advise UK and devolved administration governments on setting and meeting carbon budgets, and preparing for climate change.” The CCC’s fifth carbon budget has now been adopted by Parliament, and a projection of historic trends makes it look as if it will be achievable:

Figure 1: Emissions trends relative to carbon budgets and the “80% by 2050” target (reproduced from the CCC Report)

There are, however, two reasons to suppose it may not be. The first is that much of the low-hanging fruit has already been picked, which will make it progressively more difficult to keep the trend line heading down. The CCC recognizes as much when it says:

Our proposed budget requires a continuation of the increase in take-up of ultra-low emission vehicles (e.g. electric and plug-in hybrid cars and vans) and low-carbon heat (e.g. heat networks and heat pumps) required by the fourth carbon budget. These changes will require bigger behavioural adjustments than emissions reductions to date, but are needed to prepare for the 2050 target. To involve genuine emissions reductions they should be accompanied by deep reductions in emissions from electricity generation. It is important to signal this direction in advance given the time required to develop new policies, to grow currently nascent markets, for consumer behaviours to adapt and to invest in supporting infrastructure and innovation.

How much success will be achieved in getting consumers to adapt their behavior is questionable. And how are the “deep reductions in emissions from electricity generation” to be achieved? According to the CCC:

This reduction could be delivered by a range of different mixes of low-carbon generation (i.e. renewables, nuclear and CCS), reaching a total share of around 75% of generation by 2030. It is important that the low-carbon portfolio includes roll-out in the 2020s of offshore wind and CCS given their long-term importance and the role of UK deployment in driving down costs.

Figure 2 shows the CCC’s “central scenario” future generation mix, which will achieve the desired emissions reduction. Coal disappears, gas and nuclear generation decrease and the difference is made up with a variety of renewable sources in which wind plays the leading role. But whether wind capacity can be expanded this much given the dwindling level of renewables investment in Europe and the as-yet-unknown impacts of Brexit is uncertain. Second comes CCS, which can already be discounted as a failed technology. There is also a growing realization that biomass is not a carbon-free fuel even though the CCC treats it as such. How much biomass will figure in the UK’s 2030 generation mix is therefore also open to question. It’s easy to see how this generation mix could fall 100TWh or more short of meeting projected 2030 annual electricity demand.

Figure 2: The CCC’s “Central Scenario” generation mix. Data from the CCC’s Central Scenario spreadsheets.

The second reason relates to historic trends. Figure 3 shows UK annual CO2 emissions from all sources – not just the electricity sector – since 1970. Note that other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide are not included.

Figure 3: UK total GHG emissions since 1970 expressed as CO2 equivalent: Data from CCC spreadsheets.

The UK’s CO2 emissions have been generally decreasing since at least 1970, and this long-term decrease clearly has nothing to do with renewables . As shown in Figure 3 it was largely a result of decreases in coal and petroleum consumption and an increase in the consumption of North Sea gas from 1970 through 2000, with emissions flattening between 2000 and 2007 as gas consumption leveled off:

Figure 4: UK total GHG emissions by source since 1970. Data from CCC spreadsheets.

The key question, however, is why CO2 emissions began to decrease more rapidly after 2007. The two main factors that could have contributed to this decrease are:

  1. Decreased demand caused by the 2008/9 recession
  2. Renewables growth

Between 2007 and 2014 the percentage of renewables in the UK electricity generation mix increased by 7%, which assuming no significant changes in the generation mix would have produced a 7% decrease in CO2 emissions from electricity generation. But according to the CCC electricity sector emissions account for only about a quarter of UK total emissions, so the overall impact of renewables on total UK emissions would have been less than 2%. We can therefore conclude that the accelerated emissions decrease since 2007 is mostly a result of the 2008/9 recession, with the implication being that emissions will decrease a lot less rapidly when and if the UK finally pulls out of it.

The important point, however, is that electricity sector emissions account for only about a quarter of total UK emissions. Reducing emissions from the sectors that produce the remaining three-quarters will therefore have three times the impact of electricity sector reductions – a fact we tend to forget . Figure 5 illustrates the emissions reductions needed to meet the fifth carbon budget target. Reductions in electricity sector emissions are larger percentage-wise than in the other sectors but the other sectors still account for 65% of the total reduction:

Figure 5: Emissions reductions by sector needed to reach the fifth carbon budget target. Reproduced from the CCC report.

And how does the CCC plan to achieve the reductions in the non-electric sectors? It doesn’t. Reducing emissions from millions of cars, buses, trains, water heaters, heat pumps, businesses, factories, waste dumps, farms and houses is a vastly more complicated undertaking than reducing emissions from a couple of hundred power plants, and it can’t be planned in any detail. So the CCC resorts to assumptions, chief among which are:

Industry: improved energy management and process control, use of more energy-efficient plant and equipment, waste heat recovery, use of bioenergy in space and process heat, and development of a carbon capture and storage (CCS) cluster allowing use of CCS in the iron and steel and chemicals sectors. Hydrogen could provide an alternative to CCS depending how technologies develop.

Buildings: deployment of low-carbon heat increases so that heat pumps and heat networks from low-carbon sources provide heat for around 13% of homes and over half of business demand; insulation increases (including a further around 1.5 million solid walls and 2 million cavity walls in the 2020s), and there is more use of heating controls and efficient lights and appliances. Alternatively, low-carbon heat could be provided via hydrogen added to the gas grid or using hybrid heat pumps, which include a gas boiler to top-up heat supply on the coldest days.

Transport: efficiency of conventional vehicles continues to improve in the 2020s (e.g. conventional car emissions fall from 125 gCO2/km in 2014 to 102g/km in 2020 then 86g/km in 2030 …. the combination of plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles reach 9% of new car and van sales in 2020 and around 60% in 2030). We include hydrogen buses (reaching 25% of sales in 2030), with the possibility of a bigger contribution from hydrogen for other vehicles types.

Are these changes achievable? There’s no way of knowing. But CCS is out, and where is the hydrogen to come from? And will market forces alone cause people to buy more low-carbon vehicles, install more energy efficient plants and insulate their homes? As noted in the first quote, the CCC thinks they won’t. We will need changes in consumer behavior, “new policies” and “growth in nascent markets”.

These changes will require bigger behavioural adjustments than emissions reductions to date, but are needed to prepare for the 2050 target ….. It is important to signal this direction in advance given the time required to develop new policies, to grow currently nascent markets, for consumer behaviours to adapt and to invest in supporting infrastructure and innovation.

And consumer resistance to changing consumer behavior being what it is, these changes will presumably have to be enforced through even higher energy prices and/or yet more subsidies.

A final issue is the impact of other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, which are included in the UK’s official tabulations as CO2 equivalents. Figure 6 shows total UK greenhouse gas emissions when these GHGs are added. They make an appreciable difference:

Figure 6: Total UK emissions segregated by the type of greenhouse gas and expressed as CO2 equivalents. Data from CCC spreadsheets.

The non-CO2 GHGs also show decreasing trends in total emissions since 1990, and these trends amplify the decrease in total UK emissions after conversion to CO2 equivalent values. But only methane has made a significant contribution to total emissions, so we will concentrate on that.

There are, however, problems with methane data sources. The DEFRA data, for example, show substantially the same methane emissions levels as Figure 6 after multiplying methane by 25 to convert it to a CO2 equivalent, but it shows “energy-transport” as the dominant methane source. All other data sources show emissions from waste dumps and agriculture as the dominant methane sources:

Figure 7: DEFRA’s version of the sources of UK methane emissions

Not knowing quite what to do about this I went to the DECC data, which although they show ~30% lower methane emissions than Figure 5 and end in 2010 rather than 2013 at least have the methane sources correctly categorized:

Figure 8: DECC’s version of the sources of UK methane emissions

According to Figure 8 the decline in methane emissions since 1990 has been caused by declining energy supply emissions – a result of decreasing coal usage – and declining waste management emissions, reportedly caused by improvements in the way waste is managed. But agricultural emissions have remained more or less the same and total emissions are slowly converging on them, suggesting that there isn’t much more squeal to be got out of this particular pig. And as shown in Figure 9, DECC projects only minor decreases in future methane emissions. It seems that the UK is not going to get much help from methane in meeting its long-term emissions goals.

Figure 9: Actual and projected methane emissions. Data from DECC.

Time to sum up. To meet the fifth carbon budget the UK must, by 2030:

1. Reduce electricity sector emissions by approximately 70%, representing 35% of the total emissions reduction.

2. Reduce emissions from other energy-consuming sectors by approximately 30%, representing 65% of the total emissions reduction.

The CCC has developed a 2030 generation mix that reduces electricity sector emissions by the desired amount, but it includes CCS and some other questionable items, so there are doubts as to whether it will deliver the desired results.

The CCC has no plan for reducing other sector emissions, basing its estimates entirely on unverified (and unverifiable) assumptions regarding the percentage of EVs, insulated homes etc. that may exist 14 years from now. There are no guarantees that these percentages will be achieved, and the CCC acknowledges that achieving them will be difficult. As the CCC puts it: Meeting the fifth carbon budget will require progress in increasingly difficult areas to continue reducing emissions.

Overall it doesn’t look good.

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40 Responses to Can the UK meet the fifth carbon budget?

  1. Willem Post says:


    Great summary of history and prognosis regarding the more obvious greenhouse gases. A complete inventory of past and prognosis greenhouse gases would show an even bleaker picture.

    Whereas your analysis is applicable to the UK, it serves as a useful template for other countries and the EU as a whole.

    In Vermont, we have a goal of 90% RE of ALL energy by 2050, from mostly HOMEGROWN RE systems, not just electrical energy which is only 35% of all energy. The electrical part is much less difficult to achieve than the other 65%.

    I have made a capital cost estimate of the Vermont transition (623,000 people); at least $20 billion over the next 33 years, which is completely unrealistic with the Vermont government already having $100 million annual deficits. A carbon tax raising $500 million/y by 2025 is contemplated.

  2. pyrrhus says:

    Here’s the executive summary–NO!

  3. Greg Kaan says:

    Will the UK even try now that it has quit the EU?
    The DECC has already been axed –

    • Alex says:

      Not axed. Spread around.

      I assume the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs will be responsible for meeting the goals, and have to pass targets over to the department of Business, Energy and Innovation.

      • Andy Dawson says:

        Apparently not – it seeems DECC has been moed under BEIS eb bloc.

      • The greens are concerned that the words “climate change” no longer exist. “Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy” no longer conveys the right message, apparently.

  4. Alex says:

    Looking at figure 5, two areas that need focusing on are:
    – Home (and commercial) building insulation. The average heat loss per dwelling per “delta-centigrade” has fallen some 32% in the 40 years to 2011, Progress on this has to at least continue, if not accelerate. That will require (1) a relaunch of the “Green deal”, perhaps this time with zero percent finance and much simpler administration and (2) introduction of new building standards (they were meant to be introduced this year, but have been delayed, even though home builders are geared up.
    – Electrification of vehicles. To some extent this is reliant on industry coming up with good EV models. EV sales are very slow at present, but once the technology reaches a certain point, an EV becomes logical commercial choice for a significant section of buyers (e.g. most second car buyers), and sales can take off.

    For EVs to be effective in reducing emissions, it goes without saying that the grid emissions intensity needs to be reduced. That is going to largely depend on the getting the currently planned Gen III build operating by 2030. So far, I’d have confidence in Mooreside and Wyfla, but the others might not make it by 2030.

    • Alex says:

      The article talks about heat pumps as well as building insulation. I don’t think there will be many retrofitted heat pumps – especially as gas boilers last 10-15 years. I assume however that this will be a major focus between 2030 and 2050.

      For new builds, a heat pump is – in the UK* – a logical choice, as you can dispense with the gas infrastructure. However, if a new build is properly insulated, it doesn’t really matter as the heating needed – pumped or gas – is small.

      *In Germany, the new build flats next to me have good insulation and underfloor heating. Ideal for a heat pump? No, they are getting gas boilers, because electricity costs 30 cents / KWh and gas costs 5 cents / KWh.

      • Joe Public says:

        “For new builds, a heat pump is – in the UK* – a logical choice, as you can dispense with the gas infrastructure. ”

        Not necessarily. Electric heat pumps add to peak demand which must be met instantaneously.

        Gas heating adds to peak demand too; but gas doesn’t suffer electricity’s Achillies Heel – enormous quantities can be stored cheaply- the Rough offshore gas storage field alone can store >34,000 GWh.

        [c.f. Britain’s total pumped hydro storage – just 30GWh]

        • Alex Terrell says:

          “Not necessarily. Electric heat pumps add to peak demand which must be met instantaneously.”

          That is true on a seasonal basis, but not on a daily basis. Indeed, I’m rather hoping that on a daily basis, heating can smooth out electricity supply. This requires houses which have good thermal mass, as well as being well insulated.

          The seasonal variation is not too much of an issue, as nuclear power plants can be refuelled and maintained in the summer. I’m doing to some work at present to quantify “not much of an issue”.

          • Joe Public says:

            “That is true on a seasonal basis, but not on a daily basis. ”

            Electric-based heating adds to *every* day’s / hour’s / minute’s / second’s peak during the UK’s winter heating season.

    • Willem Post says:


      If EV consumption is 0.32 kWh/mile, annual miles driven is 5.5 billion/y (in Vermont), and the cost of electricity is $0.20/kWh, the electricity cost would be $352 million/y, which is 1198 (Vermont annual fuel cost) – 352 = $846 million less than at present.

      Transportation with ICE-vehicles has a “tank-to-wheel” energy efficiency of about 16%, i.e., 1198 x 0.16 = $192 million/y is used to travel from A to B; about 1198 – 192 = $1006 million/y is wasted.

      Transportation with EVs has a “tank-to-wheel” energy efficiency of about 70%, i.e., 352 x 0.70 = $246 million is used to travel from A to B; about 350 – 246 = $104 million/y is wasted.

      The ICE-vehicle “well-to-wheel” energy efficiency is about 0.14, and of EVs is about 0.292.

      The above calculations are only for energy.

      Costs due to higher EV versus ICE-vehicle prices and chargers everywhere are not included.


    • Beamspot says:

      The issue with EV’s is that battery price probably had bottomed now. They had been, they are and they will be quite expensive compared with FF, and excluding taxes..

      EV 2.0 (2005) was a complete failure. Besides Norway, take a look by your window and count how many of them are currently on the streets. Fluence production line had been closed. Many others are on the verge of being closed. Even Leaf had made a re-design where the battery has 25% more juice, but it will cost 50% more to the customer (so probably now they may be capable not selling it at a loss).

      The only way that EV’s will begin to take share is by rasing taxes. And that is what is currently going on for EV 3.0 (target: 2020, excuse: carbon tax).

      But the final outcome wouldn’t be a huge switch to EV’s, but to pedestrians.

      The issue is lack of affordability.

      Private car for commuting will be an expensive luxury in the next decade, that will kill the car manufacturing.

      IMHO, the consequences of Peak Oil, is the ‘great exclusion’, the end of our civilization as we know it now.

      John Michael Greer is, IMHO, the writer that better fits my thoughts on the outcome of all of this.

  5. Joe Public says:

    Methane emissions – ‘energy transport’. Could they mean ‘transportation losses’?

    What the industry terms Unaccounted-for Gas (UAG), comprising metering errors, theft of gas, escaped gas. It is only the latter which contributes towards GHG emissions.

    The current review of National Grid’s UAG management to end Feb 2016:

    Note Table 1 on page 4. Throughput losses (escapes) for the entire National Transmission System (NTS) are a mere ~0.29%. C.f. Electricity transmission losses.

    Interesting also is the fact that the introduction of numerous bio-methane sites embedded within the gas distribution zones has resulted in a slight increase in total NTS calorific value shrinkage (CVS) volumes as the commissioning and operation of these sites is refined.

  6. edmh says:

    With the UK now responsible for ~1.3% of global emissions and this emission contribution is diminishing rapidly, arguing about meeting the 5th carbon budget seems like arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of pin.

    Hopefully carbon budgets and all the rest of the green paraphernalia will be swept away in a post Brexit UK by a government sensibly wishing to reduce energy bills, remake industrial competitiveness and eventually repeal the Climate Change Act.

    In the UK the long term commitment to weather dependent Renewables can already be assessed at about €7,000 / head, (this is about half the level in Germany).

    Who voted for this vast expenditures ?? Across Europe they add up to be in the region of €3.4 trillion, €3,400,000,000,000.

    That expenditure in Europe will probably make no difference to world temperatures which are likely to cool significantly over the coming decades.

  7. jacobress says:

    The “new nuclear” in the CCC scenario (figure 2) is also pure fantasy. There will be no “new nuclear” power in the UK until 2030.

    • robertok06 says:

      Right!… no new nuclear before 2030 (actually, I am not sure there will be any even after that date…)… so you can change the name of the line from “new nuclear” to “new blackouts”…

  8. The new SoS should concentrate on building gas-fired plant and building up a thriving nuclear industry using the latest technology. He should stop all reneweables subsidies and pahes renewables out as quickly as possible. The SoS should amend the 2050 carbon target to be the same as the 1990 baseline, the reason being that it appears to him that the scientific knowledge has changed since 2008.

  9. Javier says:

    There is also the question of why should we reduce our CO2 emissions.

    1. All the available evidence shows a positive effect of both global warming and CO2 increase through planet greening, enhanced plant productivity, and growth season lengthening, while the negative effects remain hypothetical or minute.

    2. There is absolutely no evidence that a reduction of CO2 emissions by several countries will have any significant effect, not only on global warming, but even on atmospheric CO2 levels.

    Given the above it looks like some nations have fallen pray to the bogus scientific fad of the moment like eugenics or lysenkoism.

  10. One question I didn’t address in the post was that of carbon leakage. At least some of the decrease in UK’S emissions since 1970 would have been a result of the relocation of energy-consuming industries to other countries, steel being an example:

    And while the decrease in steel production would have contributed to a reduction in UK emissions it would have done nothing to reduce global emissions. The emissions just went somewhere else.

    Does anyone have any estimates of how much carbon leakage actually occurred?

    • “Have the figures” I doubt it.

      For steel, the,uk steel data will give you the data.

      The UK used to supply nearly 100% of its own steel. Aside from capacity reduction, one of the reasons for the move away from that is there were higher value markets abroad.

      This can be seen easily if we look at steel mill capacity. Just counting the two remaining blast furnace plants would leave us with an output in the region of 7-8 million tonnes per year (Redcar would bump that up but is now closed). I think there is another couple of mty coming from the EAF’s in the country meaning the UK is probably producing ~10 mta. UK demand is around 10 mta.

      • Here are some crude numbers on steel:

        Decrease in UK production 1972-2014 = 12.5 million tons
        Carbon intensity = 1.9 tons CO2/ton steel
        Emissions reduction = 1.9*12.5 = 23.8 million tons CO2.
        Reduction in UK CO2 emissions 1972-2014 = 232 million tons CO2

        According to these numbers carbon leakage from relocated steel capacity accounts for approximately 10% of the reduction in UK CO2 emissions since 1972.

        • I am not sure I would put all of it in leakage. UK demand was higher in the past. Using the eef data, it looks like 6mty is due to decline in UK demand so half to leakage.

          The UK can meet its own steel demand with its own works in terms of capacity but not in terms of grades. It choose in the past not meet its capacity and this continues today. Steel mills re-positioned themselves from supplying the 50% or so of the UK market that was low value (or military grade) and filled in the higher quality markets in the EU (and even some of China around 2000’s). ~40% of the steel made in the UK is exported and replaced with imports. I am not really sure I call that true leakage as the exports and imports cancel each other out on a simplistic face value comparison.

          On another point going as far back as the 1970’s etc brings us back to a period when there were many more smaller and less efficient blast furnaces (five at Port Talbot, Brymbo, East Moors (baby furnaces really), Consett etc). The carbon input to steel was much higher back then as well with a carbon requirement closer to 1 tonne per tonne of steel. Now it is about half that.

          No doubt the decline has accounted for a lot or reductions. The European Environmental Agency does a series “Why did greenhouse gas emissions fall in the EU in xxxx”. The decline in industrial emissions either via decline or efficiency are a huge part.

    • Joe Public says:

      ” … while the decrease in steel production would have contributed to a reduction in UK emissions it would have done nothing to reduce global emissions. The emissions just went somewhere else.”

      And the extra emissions created shipping the finished goods (back) to international markets disappear into the ether.

      If a ship sails from one UK port to another, it is considered ‘domestic’ shipping and the emissions will be included in the UK inventory. Emissions from international shipping, and aviation, are recorded and reported for information purposes, but do not currently form part of any country’s official inventory.”

      Page 49:

      • This has significance as the UK imports all of its iron ore and most associated derivatives (pellets and fluxes) and also a lot of metallurgical coke. I am not sure about met coal. A lot of the finished project then goes back to the foreign markets.

  11. JerryC says:

    I don’t think anyone seriously expects to meet these carbon targets. They’re done done strictly to signal good intentions.

  12. Douglas Brodie says:

    Last year (November) I sent a paper to all Tory MPs, including now PM Mrs Theresa May, on why I think the Climate Change Act should be repealed, see

    As in this post, I was surprised to discover how much UK primary energy consumption and electricity generation had dropped over recent years, both down about 18% since 2005. I couldn’t believe it was down to renewable energy. I concluded, perhaps rather lamely, that it must have been mainly due to a combination of the economic downturn, exporting of industrial production (and associated emissions) to countries like China and India and improved energy efficiency.

    I suggested that the apparently good UK energy/emissions trend had masked the fact that progress on true decarbonisation had been largely illusory because the carbon intensity of UK electricity generation, tonnes of CO2 emitted per gigawatt hour of generated electricity as reported in the annual Dukes reports, had done not much better than to flatline despite a decade or more of new wind farms and other green policies. I postulated that the modest improvement was due mainly to the “low-hanging fruit” effect of displacing coal-fired electricity generation and the “cheating” accounting of deeming biomass electricity generation to be emissions-free.

    Needless to say none of the climate alarmist MPs responded to my paper although I did get a few words of encouragement from a couple of the realists amongst them. Maybe Mrs May took note! Maybe she recognises the parallels between the so-called “climate change consensus” and the EU referendum’s “Project Fear”, supported by unjustified political assertions and propaganda from “follow the money” so-called experts.

    • An important consideration here is what Theresa May’s views on climate change are. A few days ago Carbon Brief went back through the records to see if they could find out – and discovered that she had never said what they were. The best they could come up with was the following statement, published on May’s website in December 2008 shortly after the Climate Change Act was passed:

      “I am thrilled to see that after years of Conservative pressure, we have finally passed a necessary and ambitious piece of legislation on Climate Change. Britain is the first country in the world to formally bind itself to cut greenhouse emissions and I strongly believe this will improve our national and economic security. To stay reliant on fossil fuels would mean tying ourselves to increasingly unstable supplies which could endanger our energy security and the Climate Change and Energy Bills mark an important step for both the health of our economy and the health of our nation. It is now vital that we stick to these targets.”

      What’s interesting about this quote is that the emphasis is entirely on energy security – not a word is said about saving the Earth from the ravages of global warming. Maybe there’s hope yet.

    • Douglas Brodie says:

      I am very encouraged to see that one of Mrs May’s special advisers is a climate pragmatist. As reported by Paul Homewood:

      ‘Nick Timothy is Theresa May’s right-hand man and a key adviser. In April he wrote a hard-hitting attack on Britain’s “unilateral and monstrous act of self-harm – or rather, the act of harm inflicted upon industrial Britain by Parliament – that was the Climate Change Act.”’


  13. benj says:

    Given most homes run central heating(I think) would it not be sensible to use that existing infrastructure by replacing gas with district heated. Changing it all to electric heating will be costly.

    If we are going to roll out new nuclear, should massive amount of wasted heat be used productively instead?

    What’s the point in spending loads of money on energy efficiency/lowering demand when tens of GWs of energy gets discharged as steam?

    Maybe this is one area small modular rectors have an advantage over the big boys, as they can be sited closer to cities.

    • Joe Public says:

      “Given most homes run central heating(I think) would it not be sensible to use that existing infrastructure by replacing gas with district heated.”


      It would not be sensible.

      From a system-efficiency point of view, it is more efficient to burn fuel/energy at the point of use, rather than distribute heat.

      Distributing heat incurs far, far greater energy losses/km

      District heating has to operate 24/7. Individuals (usually – especially if they themselves pay for the heat) turn off/down their heating when away from home, and/or set-back the temperature each night. [District heating schemes serve premises where individual’s have different ‘day/night’ hours – e.g. shift workers, night-owls etc.]

      • Grigoriev Albert says:

        There are apartment houses in Russia with heat meters.
        So individuals are able to turn off/down their heating.
        I believe that similar heat meters are available in your country.

        • Joe Public says:

          Yes, heat meters are commonplace. But the central boiler plant & district circulating pumps need to operate 24/7 (albeit at a reduced temperature). [On not, in the case of Siberia! ;-)]

          • Grigoriev Albert says:

            In our town there is CCGT plant with extraction steam turbine. It provides heat and hot water.
            Besides some apartment houses have boilers (80-200 KW) to supply hot water during maintenance time at town pipe system and power plant.

      • benj says:

        But most nuclear power plants only operate at less than 40% efficiency. The rest is waste.

        Why not use that for district heating?

        • Joe Public says:

          Yes, ‘waste’ heat can be utilised. But not all the output is necessarily waste. It has to be married to a suitable, relatively local, demand.

  14. Leo Smith says:

    There will never be a 5th carbon budget.

    carbon dioxide has run its course. Next will be radical Islamic terrorism.

    Gotta keep those plebs cowering in their suburban bunkers

  15. gweberbv says:

    If I got the numbers correctly, UK plans to achieve the CO2 emissions per capita in 2030 that Switzerland has today, right? France and Sweden (today) are also with their emissions close to the Switzerland value.

    If one does not want to seriously touch the heating (and insulation) sector, than this aim will be hardly reached (without building a few tens of GW new nuclear capacity). However, UK could also decide to stop the installation of new heating systems based on fossil fuels. Then there might be a chance to severely reduce the heating sector emissions. But this also requires massive investments into insulation and heat distribution of the affected buildings.

    • benjamin weenen says:

      New heating systems based on fossil fuels is a good thing. The boiler can be scrapped and district heating from non fossil fuel waste heat can be used instead.

      Upping thermal efficiency and saving the costs.

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